A return to normal amid concerns



It is Virginie Efira who will kick off the Cannes Film Festival this evening before the screening, out of competition, of the film Cut!, by Michel Hazanavicius. A hilarious comedy about the set of a zombie movie that is also a wonderful tribute to the love of cinema and the involvement of those who make it.

Thierry Frémaux intends to celebrate a return to normal after two years disrupted by the pandemic and display his unshakeable faith in the 7and art. The Festival, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary on May 24, will indeed be an opportunity, through a symposium, to look into the future of cinema, battered by two years of crisis and by the increasing competition from platforms videos on demand. “Thirty years ago, being a filmmaker meant making a 35mm film for the cinema, but what does that mean today? The question needs to be asked “, explained the general delegate of the Festival.

A legitimate question when the prolonged decline in cinema attendance is causing a wave of panic to spread over the profession. According to CNC figures, this would be around – 38% since the start of the year compared to 2019. For a Marvel franchise like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness which works very well or unexpected successes like that ofIn body by Cédric Klapisch, the vast majority of films show results at half mast. In particular auteur cinema, particularly affected by the confinements.It is not the quality of the films that is in question, some are successful but have half the number of admissions than before the crisis”, notes the distributor of Pyramide, Éric Lagesse, who is also the co-president of DIRE, a union of independent distributors. It’s crazy to see how seven months of cinema closures have created a lack of interest in cinema, as if it had become more popular entertainment. »

“A year after the reopening of theaters, the phenomenon must force us to look things in the face”, considers for his part François Aymé, operator who represents the 1,200 arthouses. The Cannes Film Festival will therefore be the place to question the causes of this disenchantment. The CNC has planned to unveil the results of a study on the reasons why the French go to the cinema less since the Covid crisis. The French Association of Arthouse Cinemas (Afcae) has commissioned its own survey from Ifop “in order to understand and not only intuitively the reality of platform competition”, explains its president (1).

The results unveiled this Monday, May 16 are edifying. Nearly two-thirds of French people subscribe to a paid audiovisual offer (of which more than half to a video-on-demand service), nearly a third of them (32%) subscribed during the closing period theaters, and 41% acknowledge that they go to the cinema less or not at all since they became subscribers. Especially since the offer of film platforms continues to grow, attracting prestigious directors who no longer manage to obtain funding from the studios. “Clearly, two categories of film are missing from our cinemas todaynotes François Aymé, the Disney which were released on their own platform and the American auteur films like the Coen brothers, Woody Allen or Iñarritu, which had between 500,000 and 1 million admissions. » The latest films by filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Cuaron, David Fincher or Jane Campion have been released on Netflix.

Changes underway that still have little effect on the Festival. We see neither a crisis in production nor a crisis in the imagination,” explains Ava Cahen, brand new delegate for Critics’ Week (one of the sections of the Festival), the number of films on offer being, according to her, almost the same as in 2019. The same is true at the Marché du film, where, after two years in lackluster, the number of accredited professionals is almost equivalent to that before the crisis. “For the moment, we lack hindsight to assess the consequences of this drop in attendance on business, explains Guillaume Esmiol, its co-director. Cannes is the first big market to resume in physics since the beginning of the year and will undoubtedly give the temperature. »

This does not prevent the organizers from wondering about this new situation. The Directors’ Fortnight, created in the wake of May 68, has already decided to draw conclusions and “reinvent” from next year by changing the general delegate, name and logo. We will not spare a reflection on how we can carry the battle of the room in relation to the arrival of the platforms “, says Rosalie Brun, general delegate of the Society of Film Directors (SRF), who is the organizer. “We cannot be disconnected from an industry very shaken by the changes underway. It’s a reflection that we must have if we do not want to be outdated, ” recognizes Ava Cahen, who is not worried, however, about the capacity for renewal of cinema. “The series were very pioneering in the 2000s and caused the cinema to fall behind, but it is catching up, with young authors who explore new themes to meet the public interest. »

The challenge would therefore be the ability of French and European productions to meet the new demands of the public by standing out from what they see at home. “They must be either more spectacular or more original, because the public now sets the bar very high”, explains François Aymé. Exhibitors, he agrees, also have their role to play by renovating their rooms to make them more welcoming and by increasing the number of events and activities around the screenings.

For their part, the independent distributors who were helped during the crisis plead for this aid to become more structural. “Because how can we continue to release films for the same amount, if we have 35 to 40% less revenue? », asks Eric Lagesse. Finally, the SRF pleads for the government and the CNC to launch a major communication campaign to encourage spectators to return to cinemas. Otherwise, everyone warns against the risk of impoverishment of creation. If it’s not us, who will do the prospecting work to find new authors? Not the platforms, says Éric Lagesse, who recalls that, of the 21 films in competition this year, 15 are presented by independent distributors. “Independent cinema is the heart of Cannes! »

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